Official dinners — how it works: The seating plan

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Master of Ceremonies Jan-Eric Warren and former Grand Master of Ceremonies Magnus Vahlquist. Photograph taken during preparations for the official dinner on 13 April 2011. Photo: Kungahuset.se.

One week before the official dinner on 8 September, feverish activity begins in a room at the Royal Palace of Stockholm. Grand Master of Ceremonies Lars Grundberg and Master of Ceremonies Jan-Eric Warren lay out a puzzle of all the 160 guests attending the official dinner.
On a large table there is a map of the dinner table in Karl XI's Gallery, together with 160 colour-coded cards featuring the name and title of each guest.
 
Firstly, what is the Office of Ceremonies?
Jan-Eric Warren: We are part of the Office of the Marshal of the Court. We take care of the organisation of guests at major events hosted by The Royal Family. We are what you could call "mini hosts" and we make sure that the guests find their seats and particularly, that they enjoy their evening. The Royal Family may only have time to speak to ten or so guests at a dinner, and it is our job, together with the other members of the Royal Court taking part in the dinner, to see to it that all the guests have a pleasant evening. At an official dinner, we are responsible for making sure that the guests are welcomed at the entrance, taken to the assembly rooms and presented to The Royal Family. We are also involved ahead of and during state visits, for example it is the job of the Grand Master of Ceremonies to present the Swedish Government to the visiting Head of State. We also work with a number of other events that take place at the Royal Palace: formal audiences, medal presentations, celebrations to mark Sweden's National Day, etc. Furthermore, we assist The Royal Family ahead of royal birthdays, weddings, memorable years and similar such occasions.

It will soon be time for this year's third official dinner. Tell us a little about the seating arrangements. How is it decided upon, by rank or by well-suited dining companions?
Lars Grundberg: If it were done by rank it would be a simple matter, then we would simply go by the Court Directory. But we take other factors into consideration, such as interests, language, whether guests have attended previous official dinners and who they were sitting next to then. But naturally rank does play a part, as does age. Ambassadors are seated according to the length of time they have been in their post in Sweden. The Royal Court's employees sit round the table to act as mini hosts; at one end there is the First Marshal of the Court, and at the other end the Master of Ceremonies. The King and Queen always sit opposite each other at the centre of the table. The centre of the table functions as our starting point when we are organising the seating plan.

What happens if one of the guests sends their apologies?
Jan-Eric Warren: If we find out the day before then we usually ask someone from the Royal Court to join the dinner, but if it happens at the last minute then we try to clear the place and shift things so that there is no empty space. If that happens we get a lot of help from the Steward of the Royal Household and his colleagues, who can quickly adjust the table setting without it being noticed.

Click here to find out more about the official dinner on Wednesday 13 April.external link

Click here to find out more about the floral arrangements for the official dinner.external link

Click here to find out more about the guests' route up to Karl XI's Gallery.external link